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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Are We That Dirty?

P1010116
A six year old photo of H Street looking particularly trashy on a Saturday morning

We Love DC pointed me to a Travel and Leisure list that named DC America's 15th dirtiest city. Thankfully the mention also pointed out the new legislation that provides for pedestrians to be fined up to $75 for littering. Will it help? I think so, but it's entirely dependent upon enforcement. Obviously, H Street doesn't usually look like the 2005 photo above (I really think someone had dumped a couple of trash bags out on the street), I did recently see a block of Bladensburg Road that looked just as bad. If you want to read the original 2005 post, you can do so here.

37 comments:

swolent said...

I've been to most of the cities on this list and actually think it's pretty accurate. If anything DC should be higher. Trash everywhere in our little city.

fed up with the dirties said...

Who will issue these tickets to the folks that think nothing of throwing everything they have on the sidewalk. In fact, there is a young man that lives across the street from us and he is the only one of the 5 of them that throws crap down. I wish I was the "litter police" because my ticket book would have his name on every page.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the "litter police" will go through the neighborhoods? It seems like a good source of revenue for the city (more money than street cleaner parking tickets!). It would be nice to see clean sidewalks and streets...

Anonymous said...

I think the city should bring back the the 5 cent deposit for bottles and cans so that it "incentivizes" neighbors to pick up shrewn trash. Bottles and cans are a major problem Trinindad in particular.

curmudgeon said...

1. People litter *insanely* much in DC. I've lived for at least a couple of months in four other large US cities (Boston, Chicago, Oakland/SF, and none had litter scattered around everywhere the way DC does.

2. The law won't mean anything unless it's aggressively enforced, because littering is part of DC culture. In driving to/from work, I see folks throw litter out of their cars and onto the street *every* *single* *day*. When walking our dog, most days we'll see people drop trash as they walk. A huge fraction of the DC population does it, and -- crucially important -- they don't see anything wrong with it at all. So it's not going to change unless anti-littering laws are aggressively enforced . . .and we all know they won't be aggressively enforced.

Dave B said...

Fines arent going to do anything to stop littering even if they are handed out.

The people doing the littering don't have $75 to pay in fines. Even if they do, they won't part with it. And then what are you going to do? Put them in jail? Put it in their police record and deprive them of getting a job? There are no consequences for a majority of the segment of the population that finds it acceptable to litter

IMGoph said...

bladensburg is a mess. just walking the 3/4 block from oates up to the diner is enough to fill a garbage bag most days.

Anonymous said...

I definitely remember when H street looked this trashy, and sometimes it still does. Bladensburg Road is also sometimes trashy, but complaining about it won't do anything. I hope all of you complainers are at the Bladensburg Road clean-up on July 16th.

Anonymous said...

No one talk about the pink elephant in this thread please. And please don't do it anonymously.

John said...

Pink elephant? Please explain....

Anonymous said...

I know that when I'm out on the west end of H Street I litter all the time. It's already pretty gross down there so I just throw my Popyes and cig butts on the ground. but I live on the Easy side and I probably wouldn't litter past sixth street.

Anonymous said...

DPW is one of the worst offenders. Every time the trash and recycling trucks come down my alley they leave a wake of trash and overturned collection cans. We should be allowed to issue DPW $75 tickets for littering when they fail to properly collect the trash.

I have TWICE caught a DPW worker pissing in the alley he was supposed to be keeping clean!

Anonymous said...

Instead of thinking about ways to criminalize and punish our community members, why don't we look at other factors. For instance, city trash cans have been removed in the neighborhood, even though they regularly overflow. Also, many dumpsters overflow as well, causing trash to blow around (the school on G and 7th was like this for several days). Finally, a transient city like DC witnesses a lot of people moving, who invariably dump or leave a lot of stuff on the street.

Not sure what to do about all this, but I think DC street cleaning does a pretty solid job (every day!) compared to other major cities. I see less abandoned dog poo than in places like NYC and Chicago. We should look for ways to support pro-active initiatives -- more street cleaning, dog poo bag dispensers -- that do a much better job of actually keeping the hood clean than giving out tickets. I'd rather pay the cops to go after real crime and pay the city service people to keep the streets clean.

This isn't to let litterers off the hook, but we should be reasonable about the best way to improve our neighborhood, not just use any excuse to blame everything on "ignorant poor people with no manners." We live in ghetto that rapidly turned into a nightlife party zone, expect a little trash, ok?

Gonzo said...

I was on a metro bus the other day, watching a group of four teens sharing pizza and wings. Afte they finished, they just tossed the boxes out the back door.

Some people do not give a rat's ass about the city they live in.

I picked up the boxes and threw them away. This was defnitely NOT the first time I threw trash away for someone who just littered right before their eyes. Will they feel bad or irresponsible? No, they don't give a shit.

Capitol Hill North said...

Anon 12:07:

Why call out for the pink elephant in the room?

Did you want to discuss why black people litter? Or how about why black people own pitbulls?

Race-baiting is better left to Courtland Milloy's editorials.

media assassin said...

Here we go with this black people shite again. White people don't litter? White people don't own pit bulls? As a matter of fact, I've seen white people litter and walking pit bulls so what the hell does race have to do with this once again?

Anonymous said...

Media Assassin--you're kidding, right? You really don't see a difference?

inked said...

Don't feed the trolls.

Anonymous said...

Inked,

Trolling implies baiting someone into an argument when you really have no point other than getting into an argument.

You cannot be a serious person and claim that cultural attitudes(not race per se) has a LOT to do with ones propensity to engage in anti-social behaviors like littering (and, I guess to Media Assassin's second "question", irresponsible dog owning).

I know how sensitive you can be to issues of race, but it sometimes silly how often people just scream "racism!" and assume the conversation is over.

Anonymous said...

Correction---"does not have a LOT to to".

inked said...

3:50,
this looks like obvious trolling to me:

anonymous said...
No one talk about the pink elephant in this thread please. And please don't do it anonymously.

Jun 30, 2011 12:07:00 AM



BTW, a pink elephant is a synonym for a drunken hallucination. Perhaps that explains the comment.

Em said...

My boyfriend and I saw a young girl with a group of friends drop a pack of cigarettes several yards from a trash can. When he took it as a mistake that she didn't notice he innocently told her "Miss, you dropped your cigarettes" she looked down at the pack at back up at him and said with 'tude "I know!" and walked away. As we got closer we saw that the pack was empty.

We're new to the neighborhood. We had no idea people acted with such disrespect. She walked PAST a trash can when that happened and blatantly dropped them on the ground instead of two steps back to the receptacle. I think my boyfriend was kind of embarrassed because he thought he was being nice. Shady people.

curmudgeon said...

So why do you think it's worse in DC than in other cities? (which, as the original article claims, is true) And is there anything that can realistically be done to change things?

tiffanyc said...

trolling?? pointng out the obvious direction of the conversation is NOT trolling. my thoughts on the subject weren't to blame the people who did it, but blame the overflowing (or in most cases-absent) trash cans. others offered plausible reasons like bringing back the 5 cent deposit, or just being understanding that many kinds of people frequent the neighborhood and we ALL may litter. Instead we immediately blame people's economic/employment status, cultural attitudes, or propensity to eat fried chicken...just because race isnt mentioned doesnt mean its not there...

"A huge fraction of the DC population does it, and -- crucially important -- they don't see anything wrong with it at all."

"The people doing the littering don't have $75 to pay in fines. Even if they do, they won't part with it. And then what are you going to do? Put them in jail? Put it in their police record and deprive them of getting a job? There are no consequences for a majority of the segment of the population that finds it acceptable to litter"

"I know that when I'm out on the west end of H Street I litter all the time. It's already pretty gross down there so I just throw my Popyes and cig butts on the ground."

"You cannot be a serious person and claim that cultural attitudes(not race per se) has a LOT to do with ones propensity to engage in anti-social behaviors like littering "

inked said...

tiffanyc,
when I see an anonymous comment like the one at 3:50, it looks like trolling to me. I didn't say any discussion of race or class was trolling.

If you left the comment at 3:50, it makes sense to leave a tag next time.It means I'm less likely to assume it is from a troll.

Anonymous said...

Not to get back on the topic or anything, but I run around my block and alley once a week with a garbage bag and pick up trash and litter. People who little sometimes see this, any may they think twice next time. Another issue is lack of public garbage cans. When the put one on 6th street near my place I think it significantly reduced sidewalk trash, at least the can is always full. On occasion I will tell someone who is littering to pick their stuff up and dispose of it properly. That has had limited success.

curmudgeon said...

tiffany: I'm the one who wrote the first bit you excerpted,

"A huge fraction of the DC population does it, and -- crucially important -- they don't see anything wrong with it at all."

I'm sorry you see that as a bad thing to say; but it's the truth. If you disagree, then what is your explanation for people who I see throw their trash out the window of their cars as they drive through the neighborhood, seemingly every single day? What is your explanation for people I see who drop tons of litter on the ground as they *walk right by* an empty trash can? What's your explanation for the countless hard plastic cigar tubes I see on the ground every time I go for a walk in the neighborhood, something it'd be trivial to hang onto until one reached a trash can?

Lots of people here don't give a shit. It's just a fact.

tiffanyc said...

i dont have to explain or answer anything. those are the actions of individuals with their own motivation (or lack) and i would never be so presumptive.

my excerpt of that comment was to point out the 'fraction of the population'. i work on h street and three days a week, i'm sweeping up cigarette butts from the front door (which has a trash can in front of it). there's constantly abandoned bikes, pbr cans, boxes from ddp...but that's probably from a different 'fraction of the population'...

less racism, more trash cans said...

"A huge fraction of the DC population does it, and -- crucially important -- they don't see anything wrong with it at all."

Is this about blaming everything you don't like on ignorant black folk? Are we now lumping littering into some BS culutre-of-poverty thesis you should have had knocked out of your head in sociology 101?

It's just a fact that a huge proportion of blog commenters don't know the difference between a fact and a racist assertion.

Sure, we could focus on proactive solutions to garbage as some have done, but why miss an opportunity to dredge up some anecdote about a rude black person?

tiffanyc said...

inked, i dont comment anonymously. you will always see 'tiffanyc' attributed to anything i say. it just might be possible that two blog readers had similar reactions. and i agree, it does make sense for anonymous posters to leave a tag, it seems to work for the commenters that contributed to the insensitive tone. we dont assume them to be trolls.

i can tell from the leading picture what direction the comments will head in. and after reading a handful, i had the same reaction as the 'troll'...they were racially insensitive, whether race was mentioned or not. the tone was quite similar to the 7-11-chicken-bone discussion.

Anonymous said...

@less racism...:

Your point about focusing on more proactive solutions is well taken. However, if you're gonna claim intellectual superiority ("...knocked out of your head in sociology 101"), you should be sure you're right. Culture of Poverty theories, in some form, are still very much in play and political correctness or no, some of the ideas deserve deeper discussion.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/us/18poverty.html

Anonymous said...

If you want to end the "culture of poverty," you have to end poverty, not just focus on culture.

Which is actually what they say in the article!

Anonymous said...

I think the article makes the point that both considerations are involved:

“I study inequality, and the dominant focus is on structures of poverty,” he said. But he added that the reason a neighborhood turns into a “poverty trap” is also related to a common perception of the way people in a community act and think. When people see graffiti and garbage, do they find it acceptable or see serious disorder? Do they respect the legal system or have a high level of “moral cynicism,” believing that “laws were made to be broken”?

"The shared perception of a neighborhood — is it on the rise or stagnant? — does a better job of predicting a community’s future than the actual level of poverty, he said."

To me, that seems to suggest that there are steps that members of a community could take, regardless of their economic situation, to improve their chances of thriving. And, therefor, refusing to discuss what cultural factors may be inhibitng progress, simply out of fear of being politically incorrect, seems naive.

Tracey said...

The thing about mentioning black people littering is, what do you do with that knowledge?
Most black people do not litter. If we did you would be walking through black after block of trash throughout the city instead of having clumps of trash in random places because some idiots don't care about using trash cans on every corner. Some people are just nasty like that and don't see it as an issue but you are lucky that the majority of people in this city black and white just aren't that disgusting.
I don't have a resolution to the problem. I don't know how to make people see that holding on to their litter for a block or two until they get to a trash can is the right thing to do.
Have fines proven to be useful in other cities or do they just end up tossing the ticket on the ground too?

Tracey said...

"black after block' should be "block after block" Whoops.

curmudgeon said...

tiffanyc wrote: i dont have to explain or answer anything. those are the actions of individuals with their own motivation (or lack) and i would never be so presumptive.

Of course you don't have to explain or answer such things. But your suggestion was that the problem is that there aren't enough trashcans around, and the ones that *are* around don't get emptied enough. Such examples as I gave, and their frequency around here, directly contradict your argument. So I figured you'd want to respond to support your POV.


my excerpt of that comment was to point out the 'fraction of the population'. i work on h street and three days a week, i'm sweeping up cigarette butts from the front door (which has a trash can in front of it). there's constantly abandoned bikes, pbr cans, boxes from ddp...but that's probably from a different 'fraction of the population'...


Huh? If they're people who litter all over the place, then by definition, they're in the large fraction of people here in DC that don't give a shit.

curmudgeon said...

Anon 11:20am wrote:
Is this about blaming everything you don't like on ignorant black folk? Are we now lumping littering into some BS culutre-of-poverty thesis you should have had knocked out of your head in sociology 101?


Oh for God's sakes. Nothing in anything I wrote said anything of the kind. I don't know what kind of need you're fulfilling in projecting that sort of crap into my post; but it's juvenile. Do better.

Before I lived in DC, I came from the Austin neighborhood in Chicago. There was a hell of a lot less litter there, even though it was a lot blacker and poorer a neighborhood than around here. So no, I don't think it has anything to do with black culture or a "culture of poverty". I do think it has something to do with DC culture, though; I don't know how else to explain why there's so much more littering in DC than in other cities that should arguably be just as bad.


Sure, we could focus on proactive solutions to garbage as some have done, but why miss an opportunity to dredge up some anecdote about a rude black person?

Grow the hell up.